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Home arrow Religion arrow Islam and the making of the nation: Kartosuwiryo and Political Islam in 20th Century Indonesia

KARTOSUWIRYO’S WEAKENING SUPPORT AND WITHDRAWAL FROM POLITICS

Between 1937 and 1938, no significant shrinking of the party’s constituency was recorded, and at the Surabaya congress of 1938 Kartosuwiryo was still vice-president of the board. Yet, just one year later, he would be expelled from the party, mostly as a result of his non- cooperationist approach. Kartosuwiryo’s conflict with other party leaders was aggravated by the clash of his hijrah policy with Abikoes- no’s decision, in early 1938, to join Soetomo in forming the Gabo- engan Politik Indonesia (GAPI, Indonesian Political Federation).[1]

The GAPI embraced ‘cooperative nationalism’, and set itself the task of creating a united national front. As nationalist leaders’ requests for self-government were becoming entangled with developments in Europe, GAPI agreed to cooperate with the colonial authority on two levels: internationally it would help to fight Fascism, and nationally it would contribute to establishing a democratically elected Indonesian parliament (the movement was commonly referred to as Indonesia ber-parlemen).[2] But Germany’s occupation of Holland in August 1940 resulted, insofar as the Indies were concerned, in the Dutch government having a strong reason to stall any structural reform until the end of the war. This uncommitted approach to Indonesia’s independence was further stressed in Queen Wilhelmina’s London speech in May 1941, in which she promised to revisit the relations between Indonesia and the Netherlands after the war, but gave no indication that independence as such would be discussed.[3]

At the same time as relations between Kartosuwiryo and the leaders of other Indonesian parties were worsening on account of their disagreement on the issue of cooperation, the central board of PSII came under the impression that Kartosuwiryo had pursued a wide campaign to propagate mystical teachings. Members of the executive committee argued that Kartosuwiryo’s Sikap hidjrah pamphlet contained the building blocks of a Sufi tarekat, which they saw in full opposition to the principles of PSII in particular, and of Islam in general. It was suspected that these teachings had spread across the region, and mass expulsions were led in Garut and beyond.[4] The party’s leadership became concerned that the interests of Sarekat Islam had been compromised, and as Kartosuwiryo refused to stop the re-printing of the brochure, he was eventually expelled too.[5] A later issue of the Overzicht suggested that in addition to the conflict over the non-cooperation policy, there was also a theological one on the nature (sifat) of the Qur’an. This statement is, however, left unexplored by the sources.[6]

Kartosuwiryo was not the only victim of this purge: several other leading figures, together with the entire memberships of the Malangbong and Tejamaya (Tasikmalaya region) branches[7] and of eight other branches (including some in Central Java), incurred the same fate.[5] In late January 1940 Wondoamiseno declared that the party had ‘long since abandoned the non-cooperation policy’ and had changed its strategy from hijrah to tauhid, joining in the wider cooperative effort to establish an Indonesian parliament.[6]

Kartosuwiryo’s activities between mid 1939 and early 1940 are unknown, but the suggestion that he had established a new party - a third PSII splinter group - was first aired at the 1939 PSII congress and later publicized by several newspapers between late January and early February.[10] A more detailed account appeared later in April in a report by Statius Muller, Adviseur voor Inlandse Zaken,

explaining how after a few months of inactivity - or, more likely, of preparation - on 24 March 1940 Kartosuwiryo had formed a new party headquartered in Malangbong.

The Komite Pertahanan Kebenaran-PSII (KPK-PSII, Committee for the Defence of the Truth-PSII) was labelled by the Dutch a sect rather than a party, and was supported by around 1,500 members originating from 21 different PSII branches, including those in Padang Panjang (West Sumatra) and Manado (North Sulawesi).[11] The Malangbong branch, at the centre of this new splinter party, held a public meeting to discuss the decision of the Palembang congress to expel Kartosuwiryo in May 1940. They decided, first, that the central board’s expulsion was against the party’s principles, and second, that the KPK-PSII would autonomously continue to work along PSII lines, even keeping the same flag and name.[12] The Daftar oesaha hidjrah (discussed above) was printed in March 1940 by Kartosuwiryo in Malangbong, and thus the absence of any comments in the pamphlet on the split could be read as a marker of this desire for continuity or, even, as a manifestation of self-perceived authenticity and commitment to the true PSII aims.

In his report, Statius Muller also made a note about an educational institution, the Soeffah. Through the development of intellectual capacities and character building, members of the Soeffah were seen as forming the core of an ‘Islamically perfect’ society. While this was the same aim that Kartosuwiryo had set for the Batavian Taman Marsoedi Kasoesastran in 1929, what he intended to do in his enterprise in Malangbong by referring to it as a Soeffah was to reconnect his efforts with Muhammad’s dual role as political leader and teacher. In Medina, the Prophet used to expound Islamic teachings in a sheltered corner of the mosque (in Arabic called suffah), which at night also functioned as makeshift home for the newly arrived migrants, the muhajirin[13]

To Kartosuwiryo the prophetic suffah represented the place where syariat Islam - the way of Islam - was taught in Medina and where the muballighin practiced their teaching skills.[14] In the memories of one of his associates, life in this institution was conducted in complete fulfilment of the Qur’an and the sunnah of the Prophet. According to one of Kartosuwiryo’s grandsons, whose house today still faces the lot where the Soeffah once stood, this was a place where around one hundred religious teachers were trained at any given time in what was still considered Tjok- roaminoto’s political strategy for achieving independence: per- siapan, kemerdekaan, Negara Islam (preparation, independence, Islamic state).[15]

It is difficult to date the end of the KPK-PSII and the Soeffah. According to the Overzicht, Kartosuwiryo’s PSII splinter group was still active in mid January 1942[16] and a Dutch military report from January 1948 mentions that Kartosuwiryo’s Soeffah was active before the military campaign ofJuly 1947.[17] Oral sources provided inconsistent information, as one stated that the Japanese bombed its mosque, school and houses soon after the invasion, whilst another remembered that the destruction of the Soeffah occurred at the hands of the Dutch in 1947, thus triggering Kartosuwiryo to move to Ciamis.[18] new regime, new approach: dai Nippon and islamic politics

The Japanese landing on Sumatra in February 1942 and their invasion ofJava the following month occurred at a time when relations between colony and motherland were strained, as exemplified in August 1941 by the Indonesian nationalists’ boycott of the bill on native militias. The Dutch authorities in Java and Sumatra quickly surrendered to the new occupier, which meant that significant changes had to be made to ensure the survival, if not the success, of the nationalists’ aspirations to independence.

Exiled nationalist leaders returned to the centre of the struggle, boundaries between cooperationists and non-cooperationists shifted, and the Japanese-led mobilization of the Indonesian population all had consequences for the nationalist movement. Though at first Japan had promoted the religious wing of the nationalist movement, by the time Japan capitulated, Soekarno and the secularists had gained the upper hand.

As short-lived as it was, the Japanese occupation was a formative experience for the Indonesian political leadership, as it gave a structure to what until then had been just hopes, dreams and visions of an independent state. Even more significantly, in the beginning it strengthened politicized Muslims’ expectations for an Islamic state.[19] Japan sought to gather support for its anti-Western Greater Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere by appealing to the anti-colonial movement and the Islamic nationalists, and it is in this framework that Japan had propagandized its support for Islam and its victories against European powers for decades.

Japan also reversed the Dutch attitude of ‘regarding Indonesian politics as a troublesome irritation’,[20] and along with re-organizing the bureaucratic apparatus at the local and national levels, it proceeded to substitute all existing political parties with broader mass organizations. These two trajectories led, first, to the unintentional politicization of the rural population, as traditional structures of power were replaced by new organizations whose leadership was entrusted to physically strong, administratively able and highly cooperative youth.[21] Second, it provided urban Indonesians with ready-made mass organizations, thus facilitating the formation of an Indonesian national identity beyond the regional and ideological lines that had characterized the anti-colonial movement since the 1910s.

The first such organization was the Gerakan Tiga A, which hailed Japan as leader, protector and light of Asia. The group was established within weeks from the Japanese arrival, as early as April 1942. As all pre-invasion organizations and parties had been abolished, the Triple A Movement was to include members of both nationalist parties and government officials without distinction. The first sign that Japan was not going to sideline, but instead would emphasize, the role of the Muslim leadership was the formation of an Islamic sub-division of the Triple A Movement, the Persiapan Persatoean Oemmat Islam (Preparation of the Unification of the Islamic Community), entrusted to Abikoesno in July 1942.[22]

Japan’s arrival in March had been welcomed by all constitutencies,[23] and the Islamic leadership was particularly enthusiastic. Their enthusiasm was demonstrated, for example, by Won- doamiseno’s comment in August 1942 that the Japanese arrival was an event to be thankful to God for, as ‘the brave sacrifice of the Dai Nippon’ had freed the Indonesian people of 340 years of Dutch colonization and ‘had lifted it from the mud of subjugation and humiliation [...]; now there is no more ethnic differentiation, everyone is equal, and this is the blessing of the leadership and protection of our brother Japan’.

Wondoamiseno also suggested to the party’s local leaders in Sulawesi that they follow the Japanese request to dissolve the party, as it was expected that Japan would soon create an Islamic organization independent from the Triple A Movement. There was no reason to upset the new regime, argued Wondo- amiseno, as it seemed committed to strengthening the Islamic movement by providing it with a united organization. Until then Sarekat Islam was to focus on education (tabligh) and economic initiatives.[24] The following month Japan re-established MIAI, entrusting its leadership to Harsono Tjokroaminoto and Won- doamiseno, who at that point were seen as the most cooperative elements of PSII.[25]

Driven by the idea that Islam could be a viable way to penetrate Indonesians’ souls, and thus help their effort to gain popular support, in 1943 the Japanese begun to co-opt kiyai and ulama by training them in pan-Asian ideology, hoping that this would be integrated in their pan-Islamic vision.[26]

In March 1943 the Triple A Movement experiment was terminated, and Japan created Putera in its stead (Pusat Tenaga Rakjat, Concentration of the People’s Power). Putera brought together all political and non-political nationalist organizations to work towards establishing a form of self-government. Although in the hands of secular nationalists - its directorate included Soekarno, Hatta, and Ki Hadjar Dewantoro of the Taman Siswa - Putera also gave a leading role to the former chairman of Muhammadiyah K.H. Mas Mansur. In its attempt to seal a partnership with Islam, Japan went as far as calling upon the Indonesian people to fulfil their ‘duty to defend themselves as an Asiatic race, to defend the religion, the sovereignty, and justice as Muslems [sir], and to support the realisation of Hakko Itjoe [Japanese for ‘the world as one house’] as ordained by Allah’.[27] The honeymoon between the Japanese authority and the Islamic movement would only last until late 1944, when Japan’s favour was transferred to the secular nationalists, a shift that led Soekarno to cry: ‘to live and die with Japan’.[28]

Kartosuwiryo was just as enthusiastic about the change of regime, and he was ready to fight for the supremacy ofJapan along with other Islamic leaders. Returning to journalism, he became a regular contributor to the bi-weekly magazine Soeara MIAI from its inception in March 1943 until it dissolved at the end of the same year.[29] Kartosuwiryo promoted a profoundly cooperative attitude towards the foreign authority, marking a dramatic change from his earlier pieces published in Fadjar Asia.

Kartosuwiryo pledged support to Japan - which he described as ‘earnestly endeavour[ing to advance] the common welfare and prosperity of Greater East Asia’ - and stated that his own ‘modest contribution’ to the war effort was, ‘whether one liked it or not,’ cooperation. Nonetheless, Kartosuwiryo also reminded his readers that the duty to participate in building a Greater East Asia under Japanese leadership was not to eclipse Muslims’ religious duties: Indonesian Muslims had to persevere in their belief in the afterlife and maintain patience in meeting their individual and communal obligations through iman and tauhid [30].

At a time when Japan had expelled Fir’aun Belanda (the Dutch Pharaoh) and thus had ‘opened the door to, and widened the efforts towards, Islam’,[30] the Indonesian ummah had to take advantage of the changed circumstances and cooperate with Japan in creating a ‘new world’.[32]

The apex of Kartosuwiryo’s positive attitude toward Japanese rule was reached in May 1943, when he wrote: ‘Whether one likes it or not, each individual and group will become a member of the Big Family, the Greater East Asia Family’, and each of its parts ‘has to feel obliged to work, help, and support it with full conviction and consciousness, in the effort to reach common prosperity’. Cooperation with Japan had become wajib (obligatory).[33]

It is on this basis that Kartosuwiryo advocated the unification of all those who had been contributing to building the Greater East Asia sphere into one front. His understanding ofJapan’s dunia baru (‘new world’) as an embryonic Islamic state became explicit: the front was called BentengIslam (Islamic Front), and the new world represented the bridge to the dar al-akhirat, the afterlife.[34] The goal of the Benteng Islam was to implement religious precepts and further Islamize Indonesia under Japanese rule. To ensure the success of such a project, the front had to rely on a combination of the ummah’s genuine belief, the Islamic leaders’ knowledge and the Japanese national government’s authority. Kartosuwiryo appeared very confident that Japan would support this idea: ‘As the Supreme Government in Tokyo and the military authority located here have already granted the Islamic ummah the freedom to follow its religious duties, now all that is left are the lower levels of the National government.’[35]

Even though at this point Kartosuwiryo still seemed pleased with the Japanese attempts to coordinate the nationalist movement, by 1949 he was to describe their rule as a circus in which the animals (Indonesian nationalist leaders) were only free to act within the limited range of movement allowed and orchestrated by their trainer, Japan.[36] Using less picturesque terms, Benda has made a similar point about this tendency of the Japanese regime:

Until almost the end of the occupation [...] it was they who held the keys to all power, and it was they who rigorously maintained the limits within which urban elites, especially, were allowed to move. Whether nominally exercising the authority of ‘independent’ governments or whether playing less elevated roles as leaders of as- yet dependent peoples, the scope of nationalist elites was pitifully restricted, their activities narrowly circumscribed, and their bargaining power vis-a-vis the occupying power virtually non-existent.[37]

Yet Kartosuwiryo’s support of Japan’s rule had apparently paid off. In May 1943 he was reported to be mayor of Bandung,[38] and by June he succeeded in setting up a treasury for the Islamic community - the bait al-mal - under MIAI’s sponsorship.[39] As it was explained in a series of articles published in Soeara MIAI, the function of the bait al- mal was socio-economic. In this transitional period when the ummah was ‘striving for the realization of the Co-Prosperity Sphere’, the bait al-mals finances were to be used to support the war. During times of peace, this treasury would have also collected wealth from unclaimed inheritance, dhimmi’s (tax-paying non-Muslim monotheist) taxes and war spoils, taking up all the functions of a treasury.[40] The majelis bait al-mal was operated at a regional level in the Bandung area by Won- doamiseno and Wiranatakoesoema. Kartosuwiryo’s plan to extend it to every province in Java soon encountered Japanese opposition.

As MIAI gained socio-political success, Japanese administrators began to fear that the anti-Dutch sentiments predominant in pre-invasion Islamic circles would be translated into anti-Japanese sentiments. Furthermore, Benda has suggested that it was the creation of the bait al-mal as a monetary institution that tipped the balance and brought Japan to the decision to disband MIAI entirely.[41] Within two weeks of the dissolution of MIAI, the Majelis Sjo- ero Muslimin Indonesia (Masjoemi or, in current usage, Masyumi) was established in its place.[42] Masyumi’s leadership was entrusted to Muhammadiyah and Nahdatul Ulama, whom the Japanese saw as less politicized, thus leaving PSII and the other former political parties with no role to play.

  • [1] The first organizational meeting was held in March 1938 and was led by Abikoesno andSoetomo. However, as Soetomo died in May 1938, the leadership shifted to Thamrin. The firstgathering of GAPI was held in May 1939, and it was joined by Parindra, Pasoendan, Gerindo,PSII, PII and several other smaller parties.
  • [2] ‘Actie in Nederlandsch-Indie voor een volwaardig parlement’ [1939], AMK GMr, no. 101x,NA.
  • [3] Susan Abeyasekere, One hand clapping: Indonesian nationalists and the Dutch, 1939-1942.Monash Papers on Southeast Asia 5 (Clayton, Australia: Centre of Southeast Asian Studies,Monash University).
  • [4] PPO, January 1939, p. 257. None of the sources explain which elements of the Sikap hidjrahpamphlet indicated an alignment with the tarekat movement, and I could not detect any suchindications from my reading of the text.
  • [5] Overzicht, 17 June 1939.
  • [6] Overzicht, 3 February 1940.
  • [7] PPO, January 1939, p. 257.
  • [8] Overzicht, 17 June 1939.
  • [9] Overzicht, 3 February 1940.
  • [10] These were Pwarta Deli (25 January), Sinar Sumatra (26 January), Pertja Selatan (27 January) and Penjebar Semangat (3 February) - all mentioned in Overzicht, 10 February 1940 - and Overzicht, 3 February 1940.
  • [11] ‘Oprichting van een nieuwe politiek-godsdienstiege [sic.] party door het KPK-PSII’ [1940],AMK GMr, no. 529x, NA.
  • [12] PPO, May-June 1940, p. 341.
  • [13] An alternative explanation could be in reference to the Ikhwan as-Saffa; I am grateful toMichael Laffan for pointing this out to me.
  • [14] Kartosuwiryo, Sikap hidjrah PSII, IV/5 and V/3.
  • [15] Interviews conducted by the author in Bandung, 16 January 2008, and in Malangbong,6 February 2008.
  • [16] Overzicht, 17 January 1942.
  • [17] ‘Overzicht en ontwikkeling van de toestand 1 Jan 1800 uur tot 5 Jan. 1800 uur’, Territorialts. Troepencommandant West Java [1948], Ministerie van Defensie [hereafter MD]: ArchievenStrijdkrachten in Nederlands-Indie [hereafter AS], no. 2224, NA.
  • [18] Interviews conducted by the author in Malangbong, 6 February 2008, and in Jakarta, 7 February 2008.
  • [19] The importance of the Japanese invasion and occupation of Southeast Asia has beenexplored by Harry Jindrich Benda, ‘The structure of Southeast Asian history: Some preliminaryobservations’, Journal of Southeast Asian History 3 (1962).
  • [20] M.A. Aziz, Japan’s colonialism and Indonesia (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1955); Benda, Thecrescent and the rising sun. For additional details on the bureaucratic transition, see Shigeru Sato,War, nationalism, and peasants: Java under the Japanese occupation, 1942-1945, Asian Studies Association of Australia (St. Leonard’s, Australia: Allen & Unwin, 1994), pp. 22-45; on mobilisation,see Sato, War, nationalism, and peasants, pp. 36-59 and Benedict R.O’G. Anderson, Java in a timeof revolution: Occupation and resistance, 1944-1946 (Ithaca, NY/London: Cornell University Press,1972), pp. 16-34; quote from Anderson, Java in a time of revolution, p. 31.
  • [21] Kurasawa Aiko, ‘Japanese occupation and leadership changes in Javanese villages’, in Jur-rien van Goor (ed), The Indonesian Revolution: papers of the conference held in Utrecht, 17-20 June1986 (Utrecht: Rijksuniversiteit Instituut voor Geschiedenis, 1986), pp. 57-78.
  • [22] Benda, The crescent and the rising sun, pp. 112-4.
  • [23] Aziz, Japan’s colonialism, pp. 147, 149, 173.
  • [24] ‘Letter of Ladjnah Tanfidzijah Partij Sjarikat Islam Indonesia Batavia-Centrum 2044’, APG,no. 1007, NA.
  • [25] Soeara MIAI [hereafter SMIAI], 1 January 2603 JIY/1943 CE.
  • [26] The Japanese administration in 1943-44 established obligatory courses for religious teachers. ‘Kiai-Cursus’, Archief van de Algemene Secretarie, 1944-1950 [hereafter AAS], nos. 5236,5237, includes several exercise notebooks that show the high level of indoctrination on themessuch as pan-Asianism and the Co-Prosperity Sphere these teachers were subjected to. Kiyai werealso asked to answer questions such as ‘in which practical ways do you expect to cooperate withthe Dai Nippon?’. Also very interesting are the archives containing the registration modules ofparticipating kiyai. These offer extensive information on their family history and education, andoften also on the titles of the texts studied and taught.
  • [27] Helen Hardacre explains the concept of Hakko Ichiu as ‘eight corners of the world underone roof’. For Hardacre, the term suggests that ‘[t]he Japanese were a superior people with amission to rule the entire world’. Evidently, Indonesians understood this concept in a different way. Helen Hardacre, Shinto and the state, 1868-1988 (Princeton: Princeton University Press,1989), p. 40.
  • [28] Words of Muhammad Zain Djambek in M. Slamet, The holy war ‘made in Japan, vol. II, Japanese machinations’ (Batavia, 1946), pp. 12-3.
  • [29] Kartosuwiryo, ‘Bekal bathin dalam perdjoeangan’, SMIAI, 1 March; ‘Menoedjoe ke arahdar-oel-Islam dan dar-oes-Salam’, SMIAI, 15 March; ‘Fardl-oel-‘ain dan fardl-oel-kifajah dalamIslam’, SMIAI, 1 May; ‘Kewadjiban oemmat Islam menghadapi “doenia baroe’”, SMIAI, 15 May;‘Baitoel-mal pada zaman pantjaroba dan tarich bait-al-mal zaman Rasoeloellah clm dan choelafa-oer-rasidin r.a.a’, SMIAI, 28 June; ‘I’tibar madjazy dan ma’any’ SMIAI, 15 July; ‘Benteng Islam’SMIAI, 1 September 2603 JIY/1943 CE.
  • [30] Kartosuwiryo, ‘Bekal bathin dalam perdjoeangan’, SMIAI, 1 March.
  • [31] Kartosuwiryo, ‘Bekal bathin dalam perdjoeangan’, SMIAI, 1 March.
  • [32] Kartosuwiryo, ‘Bekal bathin dalam perdjoeangan’, SMIAI, 1 March; ‘Fardl-oel-‘ain danfardl-oel-kifajah’, SMIAI, 1 May.
  • [33] Kartosuwiryo, ‘Kewadjiban oemmat Islam menghadapi “doenia baroe’”, SMIAI, 15 May and‘Benteng Islam’, SMIAI, 1 September.
  • [34] Kartosuwiryo, ‘Kewadjiban oemmat Islam menghadapi “doenia baroe’”, SMIAI, 15 May.
  • [35] Kartosuwiryo, ‘Benteng Islam’, SMIAI, 1 September.
  • [36] Kartosuwiryo, ‘ad-Daulatul Islamiyah’, March 1949, in Al Chaidar, Pemikiranpolitik, pp. 815-20.
  • [37] Benda, ‘The structure of Southeast Asian history’, p. 135.
  • [38] ‘Ketoea Dewan MIAI mengoetjapkan terima kasih’, Asia Raya, 18 May 1943.
  • [39] The bait al-mal is a Qur’anic institution representing a communal treasury in whichQur’anic taxes are deposited, and through which the community could support those in needof financial help, such as widows, orphans and the poor. ‘Gambar soesoenan baital-mal M.I.A.I.’,SMIAI, 1 July 1943; Kartosuwiryo was appointed secretary.
  • [40] Kartosuwiryo, ‘Baitoel-mal pada zaman pantjaroba’, SMIAI, 28 June 1943.
  • [41] Benda, The crescent and the rising sun, p. 145-6; for further details on the Japanese era baital-mal, see pp. 144-7.
  • [42] ‘Pemboebaran MIAI’, Asia Raya, 2 November 1943, and ‘Majelis Sjoera Moeslimin Indonesia’, Asia Raya, 23 November 1943.
 
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